It was showtime in Brussels last week when Paul McCartney took his 'Meat-Free Monday' campaign to the European Parliament.
The former Beatle-turned-environmental campaigner was calling on EU legislators to encourage people not to eat meat for one day a week as a way of combating climate change. But he didn't reckon on encountering Fine Gael MEP and Drumconrath resident Mairead McGuinness, a meat-eater and staunch defender of Irish farmers, who accused the 67 year-old vegetarian of jumping on the climate change bandwagon with what she said were "far-fetched, unrealistic and regrettable proposals".
She told the former Beatle: "Don't suggest that if the world goes vegetarian, we will stop global warming. You must acknowledge that EU agriculture has already reduced emissions and is continuing to do so with the help of advanced technology and research. Yet, globally, agricultural emissions have increased, proving that a solution at EU level will not work, which reinforces the need for a global climate change strategy."
Ms McGuinness said livestock provides a vital livelihood to many farmers in the developing world, and is key to milk production also.
Mr McCartney stressed the need to limit the damage caused by meat production, given that it contributes to deforestation, water pollution, and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
"One meat-free day a week could become as obvious as recycling or hybrid cars…it can be done and it should be done for our children who will inherit this planet," he said.
Ms McGuinness told the Parliament: "Getting rid of livestock from the planet as a solution to climate change is too far-fetched and unrealistic a proposition to be credible."
She went on: "We must acknowledge that EU agriculture has already reduced emissions and is continuing to do so. Advances in technology, better use of livestock manure and more efficient use of fertilisers show us that we can produce food smarter, using less resources and doing less damage to the environment.
"What we need is better and more targeted research and advice. What we do not need is to threaten a large number of farmers with extinction."
The Meath-based EU parliamentarian said: "Those of us who enjoy a roast on Sunday and who hope to continue to do so, would never even consider a meat-free Monday. We have the left-overs on Monday and, in this era of 'waste not, want not', calling for a Meat-Free Monday, as Sir Paul is doing, could be a call to waste food, something which none of us should be promoting."